Let’s be honest. We’re good at analyzing the flaws and weaknesses of others and blaming circumstances that we see as out of our control. However, we’re hesitant to confront our own shortcomings and mistakes. We avoid confronting our emotions and fears or identifying patterns in our behavior that could be holding us back.
Therefore, self-reflection is a powerful game-changer. Since this post would be too long if I wrote about all 10, this post will be split into 2 different posts.
What is Self-Reflection?
Self-reflection is the process of looking into yourself to better understand your thought process, behaviors, strengths, and weaknesses. It’s not a negative exercise by any means but an honest exploration of yourself, which makes you aware of some negative issues that need to be addressed.
Self-reflection is an intentional process, meaning that you don’t do it randomly on the bus home from work or as you’re walking down the street. Of course, you could do that in theory but it would probably be more of an aimless jumble of wandering thoughts rather than deep introspection. There can be too many distractions and interruptions.
Making the intention and making time for self-reflection is essential. This prepares you mentally for an exercise in deep, honest thought and gets your brain into focus mode. You should never be rushed or open to distractions or interruptions. Think of self-reflection as a form of meditation and you’ll get the idea.
Like meditation, self-reflecting should take place in quiet, relaxed surroundings. There’s no set time limit. The exercises can be as long or as short as you choose. Daily self-reflection may only require a few minutes while weekly or monthly self-reflection may take some time. Some people also find it helpful to keep a journal where they jot down their key thoughts and findings but this isn’t mandatory.
Why is Self-Reflection Important?
The simple process of immersing yourself in honest introspection has some amazingly powerful benefits which include:
- It leads to greater self-awareness and a better understanding of why you’re where you are in your life right now. More importantly, it helps you identify what you need to be doing to get where you want to be.
- It allows you to identify and set clear goals.
- It helps you assess your goals regularly and modify or change
them if you need to.
- It helps you recognize your priorities and the obstacles that
could be causing you to lose sight of them.
- It helps you get in touch with your emotions and identify
those that could be holding you back.
- It allows you to identify your weaknesses and work on them.
- It helps you recognize your limitations and how they can be
- It enables you to acknowledge and take responsibility for
- It gives you more control over your life and the direction in which it’s heading.
- It’s a great way to reduce stress and release repressed emotions.
- It brings inner peace and mental tranquility.
So, how exactly do you practice self-reflection? Just follow these 10 powerful methods. They’ll ease you into the practice and develop it into a consistent habit. Over time, you’ll master the art of self-reflecting and be able to practice it on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.
5 Powerful Self-Reflection Practices
1. Find what works for you
The first step is to decide when, where, and how often you want to self-reflect. Every day or a couple of times a week is fine, and so are weekly, bi-weekly, and monthly. You could choose a combination of shorter weekly reflections and longer monthly and so on. There are no set rules for beginners.
Schedule a time as you would for exercise or meditation to begin incorporating the practice into your lifestyle. Schedule a time but no duration. Don’t use a timer or an alert or set a time for when you need to finish. Ideally, then, your scheduled time shouldn’t be squeezed in between two pressing appointments or tasks! Give yourself ample time to reflect at leisure without feeling pressured.
Next, decide where you want to practice self-reflection. The two keywords are quiet and comfortable. It could be at the end of the day when you’re lying relaxed in bed. It could be early in the morning over a cup of coffee. You may prefer to do it outdoors while taking
a nature walk or sitting on the beach. You could even create a special nook in your home with a comfortable chair or mat where you feel secluded and relaxed.
Play around with different times and places to find what works best for you. Decide if you’d like to self-reflect to soft music or soothing nature sounds. If so, find some tracks that you like and download them to your phone. Listening to music through headphones will block out noise distractions so you might find this helpful as well.
Deciding on the best time and place for self-reflection doesn’t mean it’s set in stone. You can alternate between different times and places depending on your schedule so that the process doesn’t become a dull routine. It should be an enjoyable, relaxing exercise that leaves you refreshed and at peace with the world!
2. Answer relevant questions
A great way to start your self-reflection is by answering the important questions that have arisen, or pertinent questions about where you are in your life. When you begin to make this a habit, remember to ask the right questions rather than ruminate about ones that are negative and usually just bring you down. That’s not self-reflection!
Some examples of wrong questions to avoid are:
- Why am I always down on my luck?
- Why was my coworker Kelly so short with me?
- How come I’m not earning as much money as Chris?
- Why am I so fat?
These types of questions are judgmental and don’t help you address an issue. Let’s reframe the above four questions so that they become relevant and answerable:
- Are my goals realistic and achievable? Do I need to revise them to understand why I’m not achieving my desired outcome?
- Was there a misunderstanding today? Should I speak to Sally
and ask why she seemed offended? Do I communicate well
with my coworkers?
- What skills can I develop to be able to get ahead and earn
- What steps can I take to lose those extra pounds I gained over
Asking questions is a very powerful technique because it fires up your brain (which loves to be challenged and stimulated) to try to find answers to them. The answers may or may not come immediately but they’ll certainly come!
Another great benefit of asking relevant questions is that over time, you build an extensive mental database of answers. These answers will serve you well in similar situations. For example, what steps do you need to take when you gain weight?
Here are some examples of relevant questions to get you started.
- What new thing did I learn today/this week/ this month and how can I use it to my benefit?
- What are 2 things I can do to improve my friendships?
- What are three things I’m truly grateful for?
- When was the last time I stepped out of my comfort zone?
- If I could turn back time and do one thing over today/ this
week/ this month, what would it be and why?
- What did I do very well today/ this week/ this month?
- How many things did I do to get one step closer to my goal?
- How often do I work on my self-growth and learning?
- When was the last time I read a good book?
- When was the last time I spent quality time with my family?
- What 3 things can I do to take better care of my health?
- Who are the most important people in my life right now?
- Do I wake up each day filled with hope and optimism?
To identify issues in your life and to be your best in all that you do, you need to ask questions like these. The above examples are just to show you the type of questions you should be asking. Use them but make sure to customize more questions that resonate best with your personal situation.
3. Reflect on your worries and fears
Worries, fears, and anxieties are an inevitable part of life and are unavoidable. The key is learning to control them and not let them take over your
Worries, fears, and anxieties are an inevitable part of life and are unavoidable. The key is learning to control them and not let them take over your life. Allowing worries and fears to stew and magnify in your mind can paralyze you into inaction.
Confronting your worries enables you to put them into perspective by reflecting on them honestly and realistically. It helps you pinpoint the root cause and how serious it is. More importantly, self-reflection allows you to find ways of addressing worries and overcoming fears.
Worries and fears come in various shapes and forms. They could be financial (this is typically the biggest), health-related, lack of job security, or worries related to relationships. We worry about the future, our children, and our loved ones. Worries change
from one situation to the next but often there’s always something on our minds.
Start your reflection with the question: “What are my worries/ anxieties/ fears right now?” Answer the question briefly and honestly. For example, “I’m worried about my child’s poor academic performance” or “I’m worried that I might lose my job.”
Reflect on the worry and rate it on a scale of 1-5 in terms of how pressing it is. 1 would be mildly pressing but still worrying and 5 would be very pressing. Next, reflect on why it’s pressing. In other words, what the potential outcome would be if the fear or worry isn’t addressed? Be as honest and as realistic as possible.
For example, let’s say you rated your worry about meeting payments on a bank loan as a 5. Interest rates have gone up and you’re already struggling to make the payments as it is.
Next, reflect on why the issue is worrying you. I’m this case, you’re afraid of being forced to take out more credit and get deeper into debt.
At this point, don’t let your imagination run wild and imagine your house being repossessed or other gloom and doom
scenarios. Just identify the worry or fear, and decide how pressing it is and why. Next, reflect on possible solutions that will ease the worry. Finding solutions is much easier when you don’t fire yourself up into a panic with horror scenarios!
For example, you could consult a financial advisor who’ll help you set your financial affairs in order. You could make a list of assets you could liquidate if necessary. You could consider borrowing from a sibling or friend or sticking to a stringent budget till you get back on track.
Once you’ve identified possible solutions, choose the best one and act on it. Right away, you’ll experience peace of mind because you’re taking positive action. And as the wheels start turning and your solution starts taking effect, your worry will diminish and then disappear.
4. Reflect on your priorities
A lot of people mistakenly think that priorities are the same as goals. But goals, especially long-term and life goals typically remain unchanged and short-term goals like passing an exam or acing a job interview rarely need to be modified. Priorities do change, sometimes from day to day and even from one hour to the next.
Priorities are key tasks or actions that are crucial to navigating the pitfalls of daily life, helping you function at your peak and propelling you towards your desired goals.
It’s recommended that you review your priorities each time you self-reflect to keep them top of mind. You may find that the order of priorities has changed, where a priority A becomes a priority B, and so on. New priorities may also have arisen and these need to be ordered in terms of importance.
Here’s how you self-reflect on priorities: Ask yourself, “What is my one top priority at this time?” Your answer might be caring for a sick child and nursing him or her back to health. It could be studying for the end-of-term exams. IT could be meeting an urgent deadline.
Having identified your priority A, you can now organize other priorities that are less important but also need to be addressed. Priorities aren’t always related to your long-term or life goals. An ill child is a priority that will cease to exist once the child is better. It’s not related to your life goal of starting your own business. However, acing the end-of-term exams is a priority related to your life goal of becoming a doctor. Just be aware that priorities need to be addressed as part of the journey to achieving your life goals.
5. Assess your relationships
Healthy relationships are vital to our emotional and mental well-being. They foster our self-confidence and self-worth and give us purpose and passion to achieve our goals and enjoy life. During times of hardship, strong relationships provide us with encouragement, support, and love so that we find the resilience to keep going.
It’s therefore very beneficial to reflect on your relationships occasionally and assess where they are going, how important they are to you, and how you can make them better. This includes personal relationships as well as friendships and even workplace relationships.
A word of warning: There’s one type of relationship that doesn’t require reflection. This is a relationship that’s abusive, destructive, or overly dependent. Get out of it immediately. Just end the relationship before it causes you severe emotional damage. This includes relationships with people who are bitter haters who find something wrong with everything. Being around them will destroy your optimism and positivity.
The best way to assess your relationships is again by asking questions. Here are some examples of questions to ask in order to reflect on this very important part of your life:
- Who are the most important people in my life right now?
- How would my partner/family describe our relationship?
- How would my friends describe our relationships?
- Am I open and honest in my relationships?
- What 3 things can I do more to improve my relationships?
- Do I find it difficult to express my emotions with certain
people in my life? Who are they and why?
- Do my coworkers like being around me?
- What 3 things can I avoid doing or saying that would be better
for my relationships?
- Am I a good listener?
Again, come up with your own question about specific relationships in your life to assess the strong points and identify specific issues. Take full responsibility for your part of the relationship rather than throwing blame on others. Reflect on yourself first and if the other party in a relationship is at fault, consider a one-on-one conversation to point this out.